What Associations Can Learn From Liz Claiborne

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Anytime I see Liz Claiborne’s name, I stop to read. Could be because I’m one of the raving fans who have put Liz Claiborne into the top 10 US fashion brands list and within the top five most important brands on our retailers’ floors.

This time when I stopped to read about Liz, the focus wasn’t fashion but community. Brandweek editor Todd Wasserman shared a conversation with Dave McTague, Liz Claiborne’s evp, partnered brands, centered around the company’s use of social media to relaunch its brand.

Instead of a traditional focus group, Liz built a private online community, through Communispace, to speak to a targeted group of 300 women. The reasons for leveraging this space over a traditional focus group were many. What resonated with me was McTague reference to the value of engaging the customer over an extended period of time and in a way that provides a “minute-by-minute” contact which goes deeper.

He described their community as akin to having a campus full of your customers down the hall. He liked being about to walk in, sit down and chat.

This is our competition talking!

This is a for-profit company that involves the customer in designing the product, in developing the marketing channels and in working for the success of the product. Designer clothing is not these customers’ top priority but yet they fully engaged in the community. Why? It probably had to do with the experience. They were respected, asked their opinions, and listened to. They had a hand in decisions. And they benefited from the results.

What makes this approach successful for Liz is the company’s commitment to the customer or as McTague described it their “enormous amount of humility and respect we have for what is going on in her head, for what things are driving her crazy right now.” By listening and engaging with their customer, the company experiences that he calls “authentic innovation.”

This approach isn’t without cost. Even McTaque says it’s expensive to keep the ecosystem engaged. But the results are in Liz’s position as a brand leader.

Are we as committed to our members? Or shall will give the reins over to corporate America?

Mariner Management & Marketing provides association management, volunteer coordinator and leadership development information for associations and non-profit organizations.